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Old 09-18-2009, 09:29 AM   #1
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Lightbulb 'Dances With Wolves' has lasting effect on state, actors

'Dances With Wolves' has lasting effect on state, actors
By Jomay Steen, Journal staff
Rapid City Journal - 17 September 2009
Rapid City Journal | News » Top | 'Dances With Wolves' has lasting effect on state, actors

Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning “Dances with Wolves” opened a floodgate of opportunity 20 years ago for South Dakota and its residents who appeared in the movie.

Emily Currey, film and media relations representative for the South Dakota Office of Tourism, said Costner’s film truly showcased the state.

“His film played a very important role in the film industry in South Dakota,” Currey said.

“Dances with Wolves” will be celebrated at the South Dakota Film Festival today through Sunday, Sept. 20, in Aberdeen.

Costner plans to be in Aberdeen to share his filmmaking experiences and his interest in South Dakota and the Native American culture, Currey said.

More than 30 films will be shown at the festival, which will also feature film set demonstrations, two after-movie parties and discussions in the round.

Costner’s discussion will be in the Capitol Theater.

“Dances” was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won seven.

The film won Oscars for best picture, cinematography, director, film editing, original score, sound, and adapted screenplay.

“Dances” also changed the lives of people who worked on the film, such as Jim Hatzell of Rapid City and Tater Ward of White Horse.

At the time Costner’s crew was filming “Dances,” Hatzell was riding on the Centennial Wagon Train. Someone from the film arrived at the encampment looking for people to try out for the film.

“I heard they were looking for soldiers. I happened to have a cavalry uniform,” Hatzell said.

He sent a photograph of himself wearing the uniform to a casting agent in Montana. Then he was notified to show up in August to begin shooting the Civil War scenes in “Dances.”

A commercial artist at the time, Hatzell worked that summer as a cast member in the production. He appeared in the hospital scene, the Spearfish scene, and the Fort Sedgwick and Fort Hayes scenes.

“They made me a buffalo hunter in that one,” he said of Fort Hayes.

Hatzell was 34 at the time he took part in “Dances with Wolves.” The experience convinced him to pursue a career in filmmaking.

Since “Dances,” he has appeared in 60 to 65 cinematic productions, filmed all over the country. Hatzell also has worked with Costner on three films.

“It did change my life. Shoot, without it, I never would have considered filmmaking,” he said.

Ward, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, had a strong rodeo background. He heard through a rodeo friend that the movie people were looking for Native Americans to ride in a buffalo roundup.

“I went to Fort Pierre, and I jumped on a horse and showed them I could ride a little bit,” Ward said. “They hired me.”

Along with the buffalo hunt that took place at the Houck Ranch, Ward also worked as a double for one of the children in the horse-stealing scene.

Ward said the buffalo hunt in the film lasts minutes, but it took two weeks to create.

He and his friends were on the set by 6 a.m. each day for wardrobe, hair and makeup. They would then be sent over a hill at about 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. to film the buffalo scenes.

“The first thing we saw was ambulances. That shook us up a little bit,” he said.

Meanwhile, crews in pickups and a helicopter gathered the 2,000 head of buffalo into a herd, chasing them toward the riders.

Ward said the riders were paid $300 a day, plus $40 if they brought their own horses. The production company paid for their rooms, and all meals were catered.

The local cast members had to pay for gas going to and from the Houck Ranch. But the pay was enough for them to do the dangerous rides twice a day for days, Ward said.

“Most of us were in the sport of rodeo or from a rodeo background. We made a pact that if someone went down, we would bunch up around them to protect them from the herd,” he said.

It never happened.

But on one run-through, a rider on a borrowed horse lost control of it and it ran into Costner’s horse.

“He went down,” Ward said, of Costner.

Costner “had a lot of try for someone without that kind of riding background,” Ward said.

The actor had a double to do stunts, but Costner did most of his own riding, Ward said.

The movie led Ward and his cousin Gumbo Lamb to later work for a crew doing a documentary in Mandan, N.D., for a foreign production company. He also worked a week on the movie “Lightning Jack,” with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Paul Hogan.

He recalls the thrill of seeing “Dances with Wolves,” recognizing his friends and family and the pride he felt for his work.

“To see your name roll across in the credits and know the movie did as good as it did, it was probably an experience of a lifetime,” Ward said.

Contact Jomay Steen at 394-8418 or [email protected].

South Dakota filmography

Other projects filmed in South Dakota since “Dances with Wolves” that incorporated Native Americans include:

“Son of the Morning Star,” ABC, 1991

“Incident at Oglala,” Dakota Plains Productions, 1992

“Thunderheart,” TriStar Pictures, 1992

“The Ride to Wounded Knee,” Ride to Wounded Knee Productions, 1992

“Wyatt Earp,” Warner Brothers, 1994

“Lakota Woman,” Turner Pictures, 1994

“Crazy Horse,” Turner Pictures, 1996

“Skins,” Firstlook Films, 2002

“Hidalgo,” Disney, 2004

Year listed is when film was released, according to Internet Movie Database.

*******

This article got me to thinking. Have film crews hired locals in your state?
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Old 12-19-2009, 09:06 AM   #2
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Native Americans in Film


Weren't the Native American characters in the Dances With Wolves book Comanche, rather than Sioux?

The Native American characters that befriended John Dunbar in Michael Blake's novel were Comanches (speaking an Uto-Aztecan language). Jim Wilson, the producer of Dances With Wolves, describes the reason for the change in the book, "Dances With Wolves, The Illustrated Story", which the next paragraph summarizes.

Originally, the film was to be set in Oklahoma and Texas, where the Comanches were indigenous. The desire to include the powerful scenes with the buffalo herd, however, led them to look northward. They found a large buffalo ranch near Pierre, South Dakota and modified the storyline, making the people Lakota (Sioux). They were also able to draw on the large Lakota population from the nearby reservations, including the translator/dialogue coach, Doris Leader Charge (who played Ten Bears wife, Pretty Shield, in the film) and the three boys that attempt to steal Dunbar's horse (Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse, Michael Spears and Jason R Lone Hill).
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Old 12-21-2009, 10:25 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by AmigoKumeyaay View Post
Native Americans in Film


Weren't the Native American characters in the Dances With Wolves book Comanche, rather than Sioux?)


Amigo,

I seem to recollect that you are right about the book featuring Comanche characters. The scene where Ten Bears (the late Floyd Westerman) takes out the Spanish conquestador helmet for "Lew-ten-tan Dumb Bear (Kevin Costner)" was left in the movie even though it was historically incorrect." Comanche had contact with Spanish conquestadors. Lakota did not.

Also it was said that Oklahoma did not have large enough locations free of man-made evidence ie. powerlines, roads, windmills, fences etc. to shoot all the scenes necessary for the movie. This was a major reason why the film location was reconsidered.

There are plenty of skilled Comanche horsemen that could have accommodated the movie. The Comanche tribe also manages a buffalo heard.
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